||I was underwhelmed by this book. The
characters were the same ones that I have enjoyed for several books,
now, but the story was quite bland.
It is the characters that make these
books, because the stories come and go. The appeal of this set of
stories, however, is the humorous way the author writes. The stories
themselves are not normally funny, except in isolated instances, but it
is the way the author presents events, and especially thoughts, that
makes the books funny.
In this case, there was little to laugh
at. The witty writing style wasn't enough to make me laugh. The only one
that I really laughed at was Nanny Ogg, who always saw the bright side
Granny Weatherwax seems to have had a
crisis after meeting Death in the last book. She feels old and ready to
die. That is a sudden change even from what appeared in the last book,
so I have trouble believing it. The only reason it exists is to make us
wonder about her fate near the end.
It seems that the elfish people in the
Discworld universe are evil, not deliberately so, but because they don't
care about anything unless it gives them a laugh. So they kill and
torture without thought. The exception is the Queen, who is very
deliberate, and doesn't seem very elfish. The elves were banished a very
long time ago, but it doesn't seem that long, based on some of the
thoughts and actions we see from the humans. At this time, however, crop
circles have started popping up (even in bowls of porridge...), which
means that the various parallel universes are drawing together, and the
magic that holds the elvish realm back is weak. With just a nudge, like
people playing make-believe, or dancing around the protecting stones,
the elves could break through.
The book takes a long time to get where
it is going. There is a long setup where Granny teaches some young wanna-be
witches a lesson, and one of them gets stung by an elvish arrow, after
trying to help the elves come back by dancing around the stones, not
realizing that the elves were evil. Nanny Ogg's son and his fellow
village idiots practice a play by the stones after the young girls are
stopped, finally completing the destruction of the magical bond, and
releasing the elves into the kingdom of Lancre.
The people of Lancre are either given
too much credit or not enough. Granny and Nanny agree that the people
don't remember what it is like to have elves around, that they remember
the beauty, not the evil acts. But when the elves finally do break
through, people react very quickly to seal themselves away, putting
horseshoes on the door, and leaving milk out to placate them. The
turnaround is way too quick.
The same goes for Magrat. When Granny
and Nanny bring the girl to her with an elvish arrow in her shoulder,
Magrat says "elves are nice", and gets rid of all the iron (which is
anathema to elves). She also doesn't believe elves are in the kingdom,
despite what Granny told her. But when the elves finally do come into
the castle, she runs from them immediately, and makes sure she has some
iron weapons. The turnaround was way too fast, especially for Magrat.
She even knows what the milk on the doorsteps is for, kicking it aside.
For somebody who didn't know anything about elves, she sure learned
While the beginning of the book has
Magrat trying to be a by-the-book Queen, mis-spelling words on her
needlepoint, tripping over large gowns, and so on being bored and boring
the reader, I absolutely loved her in action when the elves appeared.
Watching her (figuratively speaking) putting on the armor, and actually
killing the elves, was amazing. I hope we see more of her in charge,
because it suits her.
On the other hand, when she finally
confronts the elvish Queen, she fizzled. I was disappointed that she was
overcome so easily by the mind powers, and that when she finally did
break free (courtesy Granny Weatherwax), that she didn't let the axe
drop. I was hoping that Magrat would become a powerful witch by
defeating the Queen. She did a decent job, but it seems that she had to
make the decision to be either a Queen herself, or a witch.
The entire ending of the book was
weird. I was very disappointed that both Granny and Nanny were overcome
by the Queen's mind powers, too, even though they were ready for it.
Granny is so powerful at the end of the book with the unicorn, that she
should have had the power to confront and defeat the Queen, especially
with the help of the two other witches.
There are a lot of subplots in this
book, which makes it disjointed, as well. Magrat and King Verence (from
Wyrd Sisters) were mildly amusing trying to cope with their engagement,
and what a ruling couple must do, sitting at opposite ends of a very
long table, waiting anxiously for a book on what to do on the wedding
night, although Nanny Ogg offered many suggestions. I liked her vulgar
dance on the wedding table, to which Verence was taking notes! Ha!
In fact, Nanny Ogg was the single
funniest part of the book. The only section where I actually laughed out
loud was during Nanny's bath! After her encounter with the elves the
first time (pulling Granny out of the circle of stones), she decided
that she needed to be cleaned. It terrifies the neighbors ("it's not
April yet!"), and even the cattle, mostly because of Nanny's bad
fiddling and singing in the bath!
Nanny's thoughts were always running to
the sexual, or the placating, or both! Hiding when the young witch
insults Granny, or referring to the Long Man burial site (it was very
suggestive, with a long mound and two round ones!), or eating
dinner with Casanunda (who fell in love with her in
Witches Abroad), she
was definitely entertaining. I was amazed at how well Nanny and Casanunda got along, and I expect to see him pop up in future books.
It is Nanny who finds the solution to
the whole mess, in appealing to the elf King, who lives under Long Man
(which was so strange in itself). The end of the book sees the King
sweeping the Queen away. Huh?
Another plot, which is supposed to make
us think this is what keeps Granny from being in top form, concerns the
visitors from the Unseen University, invited to the wedding. The
chancellor is a wizard who was at one time smitten with Granny, before
she was a granny, I suppose. They recognize each other instantly, and he
still pines away for her. She is tempted, but knows her place.
Granny is temporarily confused because
of all the parallel universes so close together at circle time. She gets
memories from other Grannies who made different choices. With the
wizards from the University, it was quite funny to see the author poke
fun at quantum physics research. Unfortunately, the author spends too
much time off on random swings through the universe, which becomes
irrelevant to the story.
One of my favorite characters in the
book, because he was so well-developed, especially since he is a
relatively new character, was Shawn Ogg. Since the kingdom of Lancre is
so poor, Shawn gets to be everything in the Royal service. He guards the
door (desperately trying to get his mother to announce herself),
trumpets the arrival of the King and Queen, takes martial arts (compared
to the book on marital arts that Verence thought he was getting), and so
on. It was quite cute, and rather funny, as well. He even gets a rousing
speech to gather the villagers to war on the elves.
Other than Nanny Ogg and Shawn, though,
the book wasn't up to the standard of the others. It is definitely the
weakest of the Granny books, at least since Equal Rites. The elves were
not funny at all -not in the slightest- which means the other elements
had to compensate, and they weren't enough. Ah, well, better luck next